Some of you might remember this post, where I talked about the differences between what I had and what a tea friend Ira had bought. The tea is Chen Zhitong’s 2005 Chenguanghe Tang Menghai Yesheng. Chen Zhitong didn’t press this cake himself – it was supposedly something that another factory made, but he just bought the whole lot and rewrapped it in his wrapper.
The differences between the two cakes look like night and day – one looks a bit fuzzy and probably moldy, whereas mine doesn’t. Hster ended up sending me a sample of Ira’s wet version, so I finally got to try it.
I didn’t take any photos, but the results are, to say the least, interesting. First of all, the tea looks and tastes like a traditionally stored tea. The leaves, when brewed, are of a brownish red hue, as any traditionally stored tea would. The liquor is dark, very dark. The taste includes some of that sharp-ish taste that you expect from something that came out of traditional storage not too long ago. If you put it side by side with my version of the same tea, you wouldn’t recognize them as the same thing. Storage conditions, as we all know, does matter.
The tea from Ira, right now, is not the most interesting nor good. The taste from the storage is a bit sharp, and a bit pungent. However, I can tell that this tea has legs, and it has a good body. Give it a few years, after airing out for some time, I think, and it will taste quite decent. It is entirely possible that ten years from now, Ira will have a good, tasty cake to drink. In fact, I think for someone who lives in the cold Bay Area, having something like this may actually be better, long term, than trying to dry-store your own cakes. Those may taste young forever, whereas something like this may age quite gracefully over time.
Of course, the character of the tea has been changed permanently, and they are on fundamentally different courses for aging. What this tea has lost in storage is the fragrance of the naturally stored version. On the other hand, it gained a heaviness that is otherwise absent. Whether you like one or the other is really up to you.
The real mystery, though, is what happened – did Guang’s lot just go through traditional storage at some point? That seems doubtful. It’s also possible that some of his did, while others didn’t. I’m honestly not sure what happened, and I’m surprised he didn’t mention that his cakes have been in more humid storage. In fact, I wonder if he even knows it, if, for example, a new tong he opened happened to be from a different source under a different storage condition.
Either way, it was a most interesting sample.